Panel asked not to record evidence, examine any witness or give interim report
In what could be termed as an embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party Government, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday asked the one-man B. Padmaraj Judicial Commission of Inquiry not to record any evidence, examine any witness or give any interim report till Friday.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice A.S. Bopanna passed the order on petitions by JD(S) spokesman Y.S.V. Datta and another person questioning the action of the State Government in ordering a probe even as the Karnataka Lokayukta is seized of the matter.
Senior counsel Ravi Verma Kumar, appearing for Mr. Datta, wanted the court to direct the State Government to continue with the Lokayukta probe into the land scams. He also wanted the court to quash the appointment of the one-man commission.
The petition, filed on December 13, 2010, attributed mala fides to the action of Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa in ordering a judicial probe into the land scams in Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) and Bangalore Development Authority.
The petitioner said the State did not even take the consent of the Lokayukta before ordering a parallel inquiry.
He said the JD(S) party had filed a complaint before the Lokayukta on November 18, seeking a probe into denotification of lands in and around Bangalore. The Lokayukta, he said, had already filed an FIR against 11 people.
When the Bench sought to know the opinion of the Government, it found that the Government was not represented in the case. Terming it as a sensitive case and one in which the Advocate-General ought to assist it, the Bench sent for the AG to appear in the case and adjourned hearing till 2.30 p.m.
When the court reassembled, Additional Advocate-General K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the Government, sought to distinguish and differentiate the investigations by the two agencies.
He also defended the action of the Government in ordering a judicial inquiry. He said the State has the power under Section 3 (a) of the Commission of Inquiry Act and under Sections 8 (2) and 3 of the Lokayukta Act in ordering a probe.
The petitioners, however, attributed mala fides to the action of the Government and said it was more of a political decision. He said it would not be surprising if the commission started examining witnesses and even gave an interim report by tomorrow.
The Bench then asked the commission to refrain from examining any witnesses, recording evidence or giving any interim report till Friday. It also asked both parties to inform it which cases would be investigated by the Lokayukta and which cases would the commission go into. The Bench adjourned further hearing of the case till Friday.